Fast and Furious 8: The Fate of the Furious, the latest chapter in Universal’s box office–throttling franchise, is a clinic in lunacy, destruction, and unbridled joy. In other words, it lives to up the Fast & Furious legacy.
Director F. Gary Gray has the keys this time around, and gives the franchise a gut punch of a twist: Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) has turned on his team and, under the command of the nuclear winter blonde villain known as Cipher (Charlize Theron), threatens to destroy the Furious family and everything we love about them.
Gray has a keen understanding of the Furious world. The Fate of the Furious is more self-aware than its predecessors, and belligerently absurd in the best way possible. But even though it has a really fun, twisty concept and a great villain, it doesn’t always know how to handle all these moving parts.
The Fate of the Furious isn’t the best Fast & Furious film (it probably lands in the top half of the franchise’s eight films), but it’s still worth seeing, and fans, especially Furious’s loyal Lambo-loving steeds, will be satisfied.
We’ll post a full review of the film before it opens on Friday, but for now, here are five initial takeaways from The Fate of the Furious.
1) Jason Statham and the Rock are perfect foils for one another
One of the fundamental tenets of the Fast & Furious franchise is a love-hate bromance. Dom and Brian (Paul Walker) had that dynamic in the first few movies. In the last movie, Hobbs, Dom, and Brian all shared one. With this installment, Dom is removed from the equation, leaving Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson’s Hobbs to deal with Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw.
The two share the best chemistry in the movie (better than the chemistry between Dom and Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty), and it’s a weird pleasure to behold.
Hobbs and Shaw are inverses. The Rock’s Hobbs is physically imposing, cracks skulls, and refers to himself as “Daddy” throughout the film. Statham’s Shaw is cheeky and acrobatic, and his insults come at a rapid pace. And the two actors play off one another’s personality and physicality really well.
The Fate of the Furious made me want to see a buddy cop movie starring the two, but I’ll settle for a Statham cameo in the Rock’s upcoming Baywatch reboot.
2) Charlize Theron is a great villain, but doesn’t always have enough to do
Theron plays the dangerous hacker known as Cipher. In The Fate of the Furious, she’s rocking crazy braids and looks like she belongs in an X-Men movie. She even has one gasp-inducing nefarious moment where she makes out with Dom in front of Letty, signaling that she’s truly turned Dom and that she’s going to mess with him and his family.
The letdown is that she doesn’t get to do much more than what I’ve described above.
Because Cipher is a hacker, she’s often playing a mastermind role. She calls the shots from her base, while all the action erupts a world away. A lot of her scenes involve Theron looking at a screen and screaming for someone to give her a better image of the action, or twiddling her fingers and delivering gooey lines like, “It’s zombie time.”
I understand that a typical hacker is probably not going to be a martial artist. But in a franchise where everyone is basically a superhero, and you have the Rock breaking a cast off his arm by flexing his muscles, as he did in the seventh movie, it would be cool if Theron were a little more physically imposing.
3) Tyrese and Ludacris get the script’s funniest bits
The Fate of the Furious introduces us to Eric Reisner (Scott Eastwood), a protégé to the well-funded, well-armed, wisecracking Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell). Reisner is a textbook goody two-shoes, and he’s the de facto butt of every joke that Roman (Tyrese Gibson) makes. And Roman himself is the butt of every barb coming from Tej (Ludacris).
The Reisner-Roman-Tej comedic food chain really works, as the three actors understand the relationship their characters have with one another. Roman is always trying to show up Reisner, only to get knocked down a peg (or two) when Tej comes into the picture. Even in a bright orange Lamborghini, Roman is seen as the weakest link — something Gibson really revels in.
4) F. Gary Gray’s take on the franchise’s action sequences feels different
By now, Furious faithful know that the crown jewel of The Fate of the Furious is a gigantic submarine breaching the surface during a chase scene on a frozen bay. The marketing of the movie has been geared toward that spectacular moment.
But what you’ll notice about Gray’s directing style as opposed to that of his predecessors (James Wan directed Fast and Furious 7, and Justin Lin directed Fast and Furious 6) is that Gray puts a bigger emphasis on the weight and power of the vehicles during the action scenes. Gray’s sequences focus on the impact of crashes, rather than the sleek agility of the cars, making for a more physical movie overall. For example, one scene involving a garage full of cars cascading down onto the many levels below is a colossal spectacle. What The Fate and the Furious lacks in glossy, stylish speed, it makes up for in glorious brute force.
5) The Rock bicep-curls a concrete bench, and it is glorious
The unspoken truth of the Fast & Furious franchise is that it’s really an undercover superhero film. The Fate of the Furious tosses away its civilian alter ego, goes full superhero, and leans into the absolute ridiculousness of its characters.
The result: an absolutely insane and completely entertaining scene where Hobbs pulls a concrete bench out of a wall and then proceeds to bicep-curl it.
Remember that aforementioned scene in the seventh Furious movie where Hobbs flexed his bicep and broke a cast off of it? The Hobbs in The Fate of the Furious could bench-press three of those Hobbses.
Hobbs’s feats of superhero strength are highlighted throughout the film, as he obliterates any human he touches. It’s so silly, but watching him toss people around as if he’s a kid playing with action figures becomes a joyful exercise.
Fast and Furious 8: The Fate of the Furious will be released in theaters on Friday, April 14.